Barrington Tops, Port Stephens to Mid North Coast NSW
Great beaches and spectacular mountain scenery characterises the delights of exploring this region.
lthough the coastal charms of the Mid North Coast are well recognised, there is much to do on the inland roads as well. Dungog is located 230 kilometres from Sydney and 75 kilometres from Newcastle. It is an entry point into the nearby Barrington Tops National Park, a World Heritage-listed area of 74,000 hectares that shelters more than 50 rare or threatened species, such as a native rodent, the broad-toothed rat.
Close by is Stroud, a quiet country town with numerous National Trust-listed historic buildings. Gloucester, on the eastern edge of Barrington Tops, is situated on the river of the same name and is renowned for its cattle and dairy industries.
Travel east to the coast and the holiday resort of Foster-Tuncurry, located 310 kilometres north of Sydney. Foster sits on the southern entrance of Wallis Lake, which extends for some 26 kilometres and has a high concentration of Sydney rock oysters. Fishing is a favourite activity on the lake, with great catches of whiting, bream, tailor and snapper. Separated by a bridge across the lake entrance built in 1959 is the twin town of Tuncurry.
Family activities are numerous in the Forster-Tuncurry area, with such great beaches as The Bar, Forster Beach and Bennetts Head, and two family fun parks with water slides, go-karts and train rides. The 1,650 hectare Booti Booti National Park has fine beaches and a range of watersports opportunities.
Nabiac, on the Pacific Highway, is a quiet settlement renowned as the birthplace of the poet, Les Murray. Pacific Palms, lying at the southern tip of Wallis Lake on the way to Seal Rocks, is popular with surfers and fishermen alike.
Continuing south from Forster-Tuncurry is the major tourism destination of Port Stephens. Gathered around a natural waterway almost three times the size of Sydney Harbour is a collection of towns, with the primary focus being on Nelson Bay, 70 kilometres north of Newcastle.
Watersports of all kinds make Port Stephens something of an aquatic playground. Family friendly beaches close to all facilities and off the beaten track retreats are dotted throughout the region. Cruise boats provide daily excursions to greet the pod of bottlenose dolphins that inhabit the waters, while whale-watching cruises are also popular during the season.
From Forster-Tuncurry, travel north along the Pacific Highway to Taree. Located in the midst of the Manning Valley, the region supports a diverse range of agricultural activities. Regularly scheduled river cruises are a great way to explore out of the way places.
Port Macquarie is the next major city along the coastal route. In between are small beachside settlements such as Harrington, North Haven, Bonny Hills and Lake Cathie. The Port was named in 1818 and a penal colony, to replace the one at Newcastle, opened in 1821. Although it provided a cheap source of labour, it wound down and closed in the 1840s. Free settlers were attracted to the area in the following decades.
The great beaches along the Port Macquarie coastline include Town Beach to the north, Nobbys and Shelley Beach. The Macquarie Nature Reserve is administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and includes the Koala Hospital, where visitors can see the work of the Koala Preservation Society of New South Wales in helping sick and injured wildlife.South West Rocks just north of Hat Head National Park is located on Trial Bay, where convicts were employed to create a deepwater port in the 1870s. The Trial Bay Goal, built to house the convicts and later used as a World War II internment camp, was fashioned from granite quarried on the site. Twilight tours of the ruins are available.
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